When opening my mailbox this morning, a new press release from IWC just came in. After opening that press release, the one and only thought I had was “WHY?”. Well, the BIG news is that IWC is also going to join the connected / smart watch race. They choose to do that with a ‘connected device’ that has been baptized IWC Connect, which will be integrated into the straps of IWC (sports) watches. Sometime later this year IWC will announce more information, however it’s certain that they will start with the Big Pilot’s Watch. – THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN UPDATED (at the end) WITH NEW INFO FROM IWC –
Let’s be clear about this, high-end watchmaking and SMART watches have nothing in common, zero, nada, niente (that’s Spanish/Portuguese and Italian). Well, except the fact that both can be worn on the wrist and indicate time, but that’s it. High-end watchmaking is all about the beauty of, well, high-end watchmaking. Think: bridges with beveled and polished edges, polished screw heads, Côte de Genève striping, gorgeous mechanical constructions, and more. SMART watches do not have beveled bridges, nor screws with polished screw heads, and no main plate with Geneva stripes. It comprises PCB’s, diodes, a blue tooth receiver, a super thin touch screen and yes, a battery and more electronics.
We’ve seen two interesting developments in the past years. One being the hybrid SMART watch by Kairos (combining a mechanical movement with SMART watch functionality) and the e-Strap by Montblanc. Just to be clear, our article about Rolex joining the SMART watch race was an April’s fools prank. We also pointed out the already emerging problems of SMART watches offering the opportunity to look like a high-end mechanical watch, or at least display the exact same dial. And then there was the Apple Watch… Personally I think that my iPhone (yes, I’m a devoted Apple user for long time) makes enough notification sounds, and I would go crazy if I had a similar bleeping, vibrating, pinging thing on my wrist. I prefer to wear a beautifully designed wrist watch, with some gorgeous mechanics inside. That’s why there’s Monochrome, to keep you posted on watches that matter.
And that brings us back to the ‘teaser’ about the IWC Connect. It will be able to do several things, however let me show you how IWC describes it in the press release: “This intelligent tool, which will be embedded in the straps of mechanical timepieces from IWC, is designed to give wearers control over certain devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) and provide fully fledged activity tracking. The idea behind this new innovation is to enable owners of IWC timepieces to control their connected environment directly from the wrist while also maintaining the integrity of a handcrafted mechanical timepiece.”
When Montblanc announced the e-Strap on January 1st, I was positive, and I still am. However… there are some differences! The Montblanc e-Strap, or at least the device attached to the NATO strap, is placed exactly opposite the watch, so at the underside of your wrist. It feels quite thin and it is not obtrusive on the wrist. It also allows you to read short messages/alerts and I can imagine that could be useful.
The IWC Connect is integrated into the strap at a position where you can immediately see it. This position might lead to easier reading of the message, however the IWC Connect device looks so small, and it is actually too small to display a very short message or alert. So, now I’m puzzled… why? Please IWC tell me why. What do you want to do with it? Maybe a red sign for incoming messages from the wife? And blue light for a Facebook message? However without the possibility to read it apart from removing your phone and checking. Anyways, more news will be announced in the coming months. Let’s end this with a statement from IWC’s CEO, George Kern, that put a smile on my face: “….but, and this is essential, we do not touch our beautiful watches – an ‘IWC’ stays a mechanical handcrafted timepiece.”
UPDATE: Since we published our article, IWC got in touch and explained that IWC Connect is not a device to display incoming phone calls or text messages! So no red lights for incoming messages from your wife/mother-in-law/or boss. However it will have blue tooth connectivity, which will allow you to remotely control devices that are connected to the internet. I can think of a few, and I have to say that my interest has been sparked.
Besides the bluetooth capabilities, IWC Connect also offers activity tracking (step counter, sleep cycle tracking, etc.) The IWC Connect device, that round ‘pill’, can be taken of the strap and put into a rubber strap, for instance while tracking sleep quality or doing intense work-outs.